Fantasy Football 2012: Ranking the Top Rookies

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Ranking the Top Rookies

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    As rookies gear up for participation in training camps, fantasy owners are attempting to familiarize themselves with some of the NFL's freshest faces.

    Names like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are undoubtedly the most popular among NFL rookies, but for fantasy purposes, they may not be the brightest stars this season.

    With a deep corps of receivers and running backs, the 2012 NFL draft has produced some talent that fantasy owners will be more than happy to grab in drafts this summer.

    Here are nine rookies to keep an eye on in your fantasy draft.

9. Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals

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    Selected No. 13 overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2012 NFL draft, Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd is one of the hottest rookie names in fantasy circles.

    There are some pros and cons to Floyd's situation in Arizona, but he ultimately looks like a fairly risky pick in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts.

    Floyd will certainly benefit from constant double-teams on No. 1 wideout Larry Fitzgerald, so the Notre Dame product should see his fair share of targets.

    The problem for Floyd that can't be overlooked is the quarterback situation in Arizona. John Skelton and Kevin Kolb are battling for the No. 1 spot, but neither possess the elite skills to help boost Floyd's fantasy value.

    For now, Floyd looks like a draft-and-stash option for your bench.

8. Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans

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    Another wide receiver selected in the first round, Baylor's Kendall Wright is an intriguing talent who should contribute immediately for the Tennessee Titans.

    Assuming Kenny Britt can work his way back from last season's knee injury, Wright figures to work in as the Titans' primary slot receiver.

    Alongside Britt and Nate Washington, Wright could benefit from softer coverages, and his speed and athleticism could make him a factor working both over the middle and down the field.

    Although Matt Hasselbeck looks like he will be the Titans' starting signal-caller going into Week 1, the slightest slip-up could see second-year quarterback Jake Locker take the reins. Wright could benefit from Locker's presence under center, as he possesses one of the stronger arms in the NFL.

    Perhaps overlooked amongst a strong corps of rookie wide receivers, Wright could be a nice late-round steal for fantasy owners.

7. Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The fifth overall selection of the 2012 NFL draft, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon enters his rookie season with the highest expectations of any wide receiver.

    Unfortunately for Blackmon (and fantasy owners), the wideout's success rests firmly on the shoulders of second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

    Blackmon will enter the regular season as the team's No. 1 wide receiver, and while he should see plenty of targets, trusting Gabbert to find him consistently isn't exactly promising.

    In his rookie season, Gabbert completed just over 50 percent of his passes en route to 2,214 yards, 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

    A full offseason will help both Blackmon and Gabbert develop some chemistry, but owners willing to take a risk on Blackmon may need to exercise some patience.

6. Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams

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    The first selection of the second round by the St. Louis Rams, receiver Brian Quick has all of the tools to make an instant impact at the next level.

    At 6'3'' and 220 pounds, Quick has the height, length and speed necessary to make him the most intriguing rookie receiver in this year's draft class.

    On a Rams squad that has no go-to receiver, Quick should be able to step in right away and command plenty of looks from quarterback Sam Bradford, who is looking to take a step forward after an injury-riddled sophomore season.

    With Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer calling the shots, Quick should produce plenty for fantasy owners willing to wait on receivers.

    Quick projects as a late-round fantasy selection and could be a true diamond in the rough.

5. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts

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    As tight ends become increasingly more important in NFL offenses, the same can be said about fantasy rosters. With the emergence of players like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, tight ends are now viewed as integral players who can make or break your fantasy season.

    Selected No. 34 overall by the Indianapolis Colts, tight end Coby Fleener will slot in as the starter from the get-go.

    At 6'6'' and 247 pounds, Fleener has size reminiscent of studs like Gronkowski, Graham and Antonio Gates. While Fleener's size and strength make him an intriguing prospect, his established chemistry with quarterback Andrew Luck may be the most valuable tool in his arsenal.

    The recipient of 10 touchdowns and over 600 yards in his senior season at Stanford, Fleener could see similar success with Luck in his rookie season.

4. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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    The draft's most polished quarterback prospect, Stanford's Andrew Luck will be looking to prove he was worthy of the No. 1 overall selection.

    Luck will benefit from a solid supporting cast comprised of All-Pro wideout Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, rookie tight end Dwayne Allen and the aforementioned Fleener.

    Luck's high football I.Q. and work ethic presumably make him a shoo-in for 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in his rookie season, but his surprisingly quick feet should also please fantasy owners willing to gamble on the talented rookie.

    Luck conjures up images of Aaron Rodgers, in that he's a pass-first quarterback who's not afraid to tuck it and run when things break down. If Luck is able to post anywhere in the neighborhood of five rushing touchdowns, he could be an absolute steal for fantasy owners.

3. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

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    An athletic specimen, Robert Griffin III has the type of arm that NFL scouts and fantasy owners drool over. Matched with this extremely fast set of legs, Griffin's arm strength makes him the most recent dual-threat quarterback poised to take over fantasy football.

    Last season, it was Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton who shattered expectations en route to being named the NFL's Rookie of the Year. Newton finished the season throwing for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns while racking up another 706 yards and 14 scores on the ground.

    Newton has set the bar incredibly high for dual-threat quarterbacks like Griffin and even Andrew Luck, but that doesn't mean that expectations should be tempered for the Redskins rookie.

    Playing in a Mike Shanahan offense that stresses vertical passing, Griffin should be able to post solid numbers through the air, throwing to the likes of Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Fred Davis and Josh Morgan.

2. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    One of the more overlooked names in the first round of this year's NFL draft, Boise State running back Doug Martin found the perfect landing spot in Tampa Bay.

    Under new head coach Greg Schiano, Martin should see plenty of touches, and it can't hurt that he has already drawn rave reviews. In an offense that has vowed to get back to basics, it wouldn't be a complete shock to see Martin top 900 yards and six touchdowns.

    Although incumbent tailback LeGarrette Blount could receive the bulk of the carries to start the season, Martin's versatility—especially on passing downs—makes him a valuable asset to fantasy owners.

    If Schiano does implement a run-heavy offense, Martin's role will only continue to expand as the season progresses.

    Expect Martin to be selected anywhere from the fourth round on in fantasy drafts.

1. Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns

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    Already deemed the likely starter by Cleveland Browns' head coach Pat Shurmur, Trent Richardson should have no problem amassing over 250 carries in his rookie season.

    Richardson's potential as one of the league's true workhorse backs makes him so intriguing that some owners may be willing to gamble on the rookie at the end of the first or beginning of the second round.

    Because Cleveland's offense is devoid of other true playmakers, Richardson should see the ball plenty, both on the ground and through the air.

    In a year in which the tailback position is limited severely by injuries, Richardson may be one of the safer picks out there for fantasy owners looking for low-risk, high-reward players.

    It wouldn't be surprising if Richardson finished the season as a top-10 running back.